HEEEEATH: An end of an era for the Pittsburgh Steelers

He won’t be getting a fancy retirement tour. He won’t be getting much Hall of Fame recognition when his name comes up for consideration. But there is no denying that the best tight end in the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers will be sorely missed by both fans and the franchise.

“To put together a statement is hard because where do you start with Heath Miller?” Ben Roethlisberger told Teresa Varley of NFL.com. “For someone like me that has been blessed to play with someone like him, not just from a physical standpoint of how great of a football player he was, but the type of person he was, the type of teammate he was. Probably hands down the best teammate I have been a part of.

“It’s hard to talk about Heath, and I said this talking to him, it’s hard to do it without getting emotional. That’s how much he has meant to me as a football player, teammate and friend. I have been so lucky and blessed to have Heath around my whole career, 11 years. To have someone like him on my side has truly been a blessing.”

Heath Miller was drafted with the 30th pick in the first round of the 2005 draft. (*side note: the New York Jets had the 26th pick in that draft. Desperately in need of a tight end, they traded said pick to the Oakland Raiders for Doug Jolley. The Steelers have been to three Super Bowls since. Just sayin’). He played in an era of the NFL that saw tight ends soar to new heights. Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten Antonio Gates, Greg Olsen, Rob Gronkowski, and Jimmy Graham have taken a position that used to be a hard nosed, under the radar fourth option to the most feared player on the field.

While the above names reinvented the position, Heath stayed true to tight ends before him.  And while the above names are likely Hall of Fame bound, Miller is probably not. But he earned the dubious honor of being the greatest tight end in Pittsburgh Steelers history.

Think about that. This is a team that has won six Super Bowls. This is easily one of the most storied franchises in NFL history. They have Hall of Famers up and down their all-time roster, and they have legendary nicknames.

The Steel Curtain. Mean Joe Greene. The Blonde Bomber. The Bus. Big Ben. And of course:

It was a Sunday text I got from my brother for 11 seasons. He has been a die hard Steelers fan for 30 years, and he loved Heath. How can’t you? He was the best safety valve in the NFL for 11 years. Every first down, every touchdown a text would come across my phone. The more important the play, the more Es were added.

HEEEEEEEEEEEEATH!

As Big Ben transformed from a game managing, play-extending 3,000-yard passing quarterback to the captain of one of the most high-octane offenses in the NFL, Miller remained what he was from day one. The guy underneath that when Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders or Markus Wheaton was covered, was there for a huge first down.

And now, somewhat surprisingly, he has decided to hang up the ol’ cleats and head off into the sunset. As my brother said, Heath was so liked and valuable to this franchise, he made James Harrison use an emoji:

592 receptions. 6569 yards receiving. 45 touchdowns. Two Pro Bowl trips. Two Super Bowl rings and a trip to one more. And despite all of the Hall of Fame talent that came through the Steel City, perhaps no one was more enamored by the fan base than Heath Miller.

Jesse James is certainly excited. He got to learn under one of the best and now takes over as the starting tight end in what is sure to be an explosive offense come 2016. But Heinz Field will be a little emptier this season. No matter how many touchdowns James catches, no matter how many wins they get, there will be no more HEEEEEEEEEATH!

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